Greenpeace wars with HP

Organization declares war on computer maker Hewlett-Packard for violating its promise to eliminate hazardous materials from its products.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
3 min read


Editors' note: This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. PDT with HP's statement.

It's war on hazardous chemicals that Greenpeace single-handedly provoked Tuesday.

After rating Hewlett-Packard low on its Green Meter did little to convince the company to change its ways, the organization decided to resort to trespassing.

It sent activists to HP's global headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., where they climbed on top of the building and painted a gigantic message announcing "Hazardous Products," using nontoxic children's finger paint. The message covered more than 11,500 square feet, which is about the size of two and half basketball courts.

According to Greenpeace, the organization took this action because HP broke its promise to eliminate hazardous chemicals in its products. Earlier this year, HP postponed its 2007 commitment to phase out dangerous substances, such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, from its computing products. The delay shifts compliance up two years, from 2009 to 2011.

PVC and BFRs are highly toxic, and can release dioxin when burned, a chemical known to cause cancer.

Apart from the graffiti, HP employees were also greeted today by automated phone calls from actor William Shatner, calling upon the company to phase out the toxic chemicals.

In reply to CNET News' phone call seeking comments on Greenpeace's action, HP released this statement via an e-mail:

For decades HP has been a leader in environmental responsibility and has adopted practices in product development, operations, and supply chain that are transparent and help to reduce its environmental impact. HP has a comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability, with three main components: minimizing our impact; helping our customers to improve their environmental performance; and driving towards a sustainable, low-carbon economy.

This commitment includes reducing the use of BFR/PVC in our products until these materials are eliminated entirely. HP has introduced several new computing products this year that use less BFR/PVC than previous generations. This September, HP will release a BFR/PVC free notebook. By fall 2010 all new commercial PC products released will be BFR/PVC free. By the end of 2011, all new PC products released will be free of BFR/PVCs.

The unconstructive antics at HP's headquarters today did nothing to advance the goals that all who care about the environment share. HP will continue its efforts to develop new products and programs around the globe that help the company, its business partners, and customers conserve energy, reduce materials use, and reduce waste through responsible reuse and recycling. HP supports industry efforts to eliminate BFR and PVC because of potential e-waste issues. HP is a worldwide leader in e-waste recycling. HP has recycled 1 billion pounds of electronic products from 1987 to 2007 and has committed to recycling another billion pounds between 2008 and 2011.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace released a reportthat rated PC makers and other electronic vendors in regard to their compliance with e-waste elimination. Apple was ranked highest among PC makers and HP was one of the lowest, together with Dell and Lenovo.

Obviously, it's very important to eliminate e-waste and care about the environment. However, it's also important to understand that putting graffiti on private properties is a type of vandalism. I guess Greenpeace doesn't care about this.

Looks like it's a war that nobody wins.